The Trouble with Mindfulness Apps (Mindful):
“Be prepared to be bored.
This is the gist of one of the notifications you receive before you try the body scan meditation from Mindful Mood Balance, a web-based program currently being piloted in a version for therapists…
Visit the app store, and you’re greeted with hundreds of mindfulness apps, a few dozen of them claiming to benefit your brain in some manner. Some of the most popular ones make health claims with no research to back up their programs—they rely on the science of mindfulness in general to prove the worthiness of their product. It seems enough to simply provide a link to the most recent mindfulness study taking place, or a comprehensive four-year meta-analysis on mindfulness and X, and then mention how their app relates—as if some sort of osmosis was taking place between the research study, in no way connected to the company itself, and the app…
Headspace employs an in-house chief medical officer, David Cox, MD, who co-authored a pamphlet on the “Quantifiable Positive Outcomes of Mindfulness Training” with Andy Puddicombe. But it’s difficult to determine how much research went into Headspace to bring it to market in 2012…if you can’t show that a certain dynamic is at play in your app and in the brains of the people using your app, such as improved cognitive gains or reduced cravings, it’s going to become more difficult to simply say your app is “based in science” in the future. Lumosity is a lesson for the burgeoning field, and a warning to mindfulness apps that are eager to harness the hype and the excitement around the early science into mindfulness: it’s not enough to hitch your wagon to current science and say that your app helps with “depression” or the latest health fad.”
To learn more:
- Which kind of mindfulness meditation to choose? Comparing sitting meditation, body scan, and mindful yoga
- Solving the Brain Fitness Puzzle Is the Key to Self-Empowered Aging